October 10th is World Mental Health Day: a day to raise awareness and to mobilize efforts in support of mental health. The day provides an excellent opportunity to discuss and normalize mental health issues so that we can make mental health a universal human right.
Mental health is essential and is much more than the absence of illness. It is the key to our overall wellbeing. Close to one billion of the world population are living with mental illness and the majority have no access to care. 10-20% of children and adolescents experience mental health conditions worldwide and 1 in 5 U.S. children ages 3–17 has a mental, emotional, behavioral, or developmental disorder.
An increasing number of adolescents and young people are grappling with mental health conditions, which not only affect their physical health but also pose challenges to their academic success, interpersonal relationships, and overall wellbeing.
“Students are coming into the counselor’s office more because they are more comfortable talking about it,” says Alison Gimbi, a school counselor for Middle Smitheld Elementary in Pennsylvania. “We don’t just get the kids after something is already a problem. It’s helped us do prevention, not just reaction work.”
How educators are helping
Educators help students to develop better emotional regulation, self-awareness, and empathy in the classroom. When emotions become uncomfortable and perspectives skewed, it may seem counterintuitive to focus on such feelings. But identifying and labeling these feelings is an essential step in managing overwhelming emotions. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking your students how they feel and providing the space to share.
Next, educators support students by modeling and reminding students about positive coping skills and strategies. These strategies could be anything from deep breathing, practicing mindfulness, creating art, or physical movement. Even activism—doing something good for your community—can be empowering and improve mental health.
Technology tools for perspective and balance
If there was any silver lining to be had with the COVID-19 pandemic, it was a renewed focus on mental wellness and self-care. Technology also became the lifeline that many utilized to seek help. In fact, a RAND study found that the rise in telehealth use during the height of COVID-19 was driven more by people looking for mental health services than care for physical conditions.
Microsoft believes that technology can play a valuable role in supporting the mental health of students and educators. To acknowledge and celebrate World Mental Health Day, Microsoft Education is highlighting some key features and updates in Microsoft Reflect designed specifically to support connection, expression, and wellbeing in the classroom.
Help students build important social, emotional, and academic skills with Microsoft Reflect.
Microsoft Reflect is a Learning Accelerator designed to help educators prioritize their students' emotional wellness by creating a safe space to reflect on their emotions and build self-awareness. With Reflect, students share how they feel, and educators can access the data at both individual and class levels. And there are additional resources like breathing exercises—shown to have a significant impact on student learning. Check out the ready-to-use activities, lessons, and materials like Minecraft Education and Kahoot games, along with Flip discussion topics to help extend the social-emotional impact of Reflect.
Create custom check-in questions in Reflect that encourage students to share their feelings while building emotional vocabulary.
Educators can create custom check-in questions in Reflect that encourage students to open up and share their feelings while building emotional vocabulary. This exercise provides deliberate practice of social skills and improved communication, which helps students build positive relationships with peers and the important adults in their life.
New ways to connect with you
On World Mental Health Day, we are launching the all-new Brain Breaks feature in Reflect. Students and educators will be able to take a Brain Break with our curated collection of concise, inclusive activities designed to promote mental fitness, refresh the mind, and enhance focus. This helps give everyone a much needed “pause” to help navigate their emotions and formulate strategies to manage uncomfortable feelings.
Take a Brain Break with a curated collection of activities in Reflect designed to promote mental fitness, refresh the mind, and enhance focus.
Another new feature coming soon is Learning Tool Interoperability (LTI) for Reflect, which enables the embedding of Reflect as part of LMS (Learning Management System) courses in Schoology, Canvas, Moodle, and more. This feature helps educators use Reflect in the environments and tools that they are already familiar with.
Microsoft has also collaborated with wellbeing and social and emotional learning (SEL) experts to create an exclusive, unique gallery of activities for Reflect! Specially designed for students and classroom settings, these activities include:
- Breathing activities
- Movement activities, including stretching and dancing with the Feelings Monster
- Guided mindfulness videos featuring the Feelings Monster
- Audio meditations
- Focus music tracks and soundscapes to overcome distractions and stay on task
- Short podcasts to help students learn about navigating their emotions
- Games such as a memory game, connection cards, and coloring pages!
Check out the new activities rolling out now, with many more activities coming later this year.
Keep Calm and carry on
We’re excited to announce that Calm—the leading mental health brand with the #1 app for meditation, sleep, and relaxation—is the official launch partner for mindfulness content in Reflect. At the heart of this partnership, we are integrating 12 Calm mindfulness and movement activities into Reflect to help you and your students foster a happier, healthier, and more balanced school community.
Explore a variety of engaging activities from Calm, specifically curated to enhance the social and emotional learning experience. Here are a few examples to help you get started—check out the entire collection of Calm mindfulness and movement activities within Reflect today!
- Mindfulness for Ages 11-13: Plant seeds of mindfulness for balance, confidence, and calm.
- Follow Along Body Scan: Relax your body from the tips of your toes to the top of your head.
- Movement to Build Confidence: Believing is achieving with this confidence building video session.
Explore a variety of mindfulness activities from Calm within Microsoft Reflect, specifically curated to enhance the social and emotional learning experience.
And, for educators and students who want more activities—stories, music, lullabies, exercises, and meditations designed specifically for kids—they can enjoy a 40% discount on a subscription to Calm.
Help build a culture of wellbeing
Self-awareness and self-management are critical skills for life-long learning. Discover how you can seamlessly integrate Reflect into your classroom routine with the new Microsoft Learn course designed for K-12 educators.
- Understand the significance of integrating SEL in the classroom, as supported by research, and how Reflect stands as a valuable tool to facilitate this.
- Design and implement a practical action plan that leverages Reflect to support students' social and emotional growth, wellbeing, and overall academic development.
- Complete the module Become a Reflective educator with Reflect and eTwinz and see how you can use Reflect to foster social and emotional learning in your class.
Explore the unique gallery of wellbeing activities in Reflect, specially designed for students and classroom settings.
World Mental Health Day is an opportunity to bring awareness to mental health issues and the resources available to support it. Create a check in with Reflect and provide an opportunity for everyone to share any concerns or stressors they might be carrying and to receive support from each other this Mental Health Awareness Day and beyond! By prioritizing your students' emotional wellbeing with tools like Reflect and Calm, you can create more positive and supportive learning experiences that prioritize empathy and wellbeing.
Learn more and get additional information with these great resources!